Caffeine is a central nervous system and metabolic stimulant. Derived from Xanthine, it is a methylated alkaloid and has been consumed since the Stone age, where people found that chewing the seeds, bark, or leaves of certain plants eased fatigue, stimulated awareness, and elevated the mood before they even knew what caffeine was. It wasn’t until much later that it was discovered to extract the caffeine from these items by dipping them in hot water. Caffeine, however, was actually discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Friedrich Ferdinand Runge who isolated relatively pure caffeine for the first time.
Caffeine is found naturally in many plant species where it acts as a natural pesticide as it paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding upon the plant. High levels of caffeine have been found in the soil of surrounding coffee bean seedlings. It is understood that caffeine has a natural function as a pesticide and as a seed germination inhibitor of other nearby coffee seedlings giving it a better chance of survival.
The most commonly used sources of caffeine today are tea, and to a lesser extent cocoa bean. In global commerce, caffeine is surpassed only by petroleum in global trade. It is available in almost every soft-drink and used as the number 1 additive to beverages, which people consume approximately 56 gallons of yearly. The average American consumes approximately 218mg of caffeine per day, 75% of those milligrams of which are from coffee.
These figures establish in the least the probability that the average American currently does or will suffer from disrupted sleep, since the daily caffeine consumption levels are in excess of the level at which caffeine begins to affect normal sleep patterns: as little as 200mg of caffeine can disrupt the normal sleeping patterns of the average adult. In comparison, an acute overdose of caffeine can occur usually in excess of about 300 milligrams, dependent on body weight and level of caffeine tolerance and can result in a state of central nervous system over-stimulation called caffeine intoxication.
However, the more obvious direct link between caffeine consumption and sleep disorders, is that it has been clinically established and upon proper diagnosis labeled “caffeine induced sleep disorder,” the criteria of which a proper diagnosis would include the following:
- The level of sleep disturbance with which a patient presents himself would warrant clinical intervention or attention;
- Laboratory findings and physical examination indicate sleep disorder to be a direct result of caffeine consumption;
- The sleep disturbance cannot be attributable to another mental disorder;
- Narcolepsy and breathing related disorders have been ruled out;
- The sleep disturbance is not exclusively during periods of delirium;
- The sleep disturbance has caused and continues to cause significant social, occupational and other functional impairments.
R. Gregory Lande, D. (n.d.). Caffeine Related Psychiatric Disorders. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from MEDSCAPE: http://emedicine.medscape.com/ article/290113-overview